Divisions Harden in Senate as It Prepares to Receive Impeachment Article


WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Sunday burrowed into dueling positions over the impending impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, deepening the schisms in an already divided Senate a day before the House will deliver its charge to lawmakers there.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial, said on Sunday that he believed the former president had committed an impeachable offense, and that the effort to try him even after he left office was constitutional.

“I believe that what is being alleged and what we saw, which is incitement to insurrection, is an impeachable offense,” Mr. Romney said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “If not, what is?”

But even as Mr. Romney signaled his openness to convicting Mr. Trump, other Senate Republicans made clear that they opposed even the idea of a trial and would try to dismiss the charge before it began. Taken together, the comments underscored the rift that the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and the ensuing fallout have created in the Republican conference, as senators weighed whether they would pay a steeper political price for breaking with the former president or for failing to.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, Mr. Rubio compared the transition of power to that of President Richard M. Nixon.

“In hindsight, I think we would all agree that President Ford’s pardon was important for the country to be able to move forward,” Mr. Rubio said, “and history held Richard Nixon quite accountable for what he did as a result.”

Asked if he thought Mr. Trump had committed an impeachable offense, Senator Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, called it “a moot point” and argued that pursuing an impeachment trial against a former president would be both unconstitutional and a waste of time.

“If we start working on an impeachment, which it looks like we’re going to end up doing, we’ve only got a couple of weeks here in which to work actually through and allow this president an opportunity to form a cabinet,” Mr. Rounds said on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “A lot of us would prefer to maybe work through those issues instead.”

Representative Madeleine Dean, Democrat of Pennsylvania and one of the impeachment managers who will try the case against Mr. Trump, said on Sunday that she expected the trial to “go faster” than his trial in 2020, which lasted 21 days.

“Some people would like us to turn the page: ‘Oh, let’s move on,’” Ms. Dean said on “State of the Union.” “We must remember, I believe, that this impeachment trial, I hope conviction, ultimate disqualification, are the very first powerful steps toward unity.”

Ms. Dean declined to say whether impeachment managers would include a New York Times report on Friday that Mr. Trump had considered firing the acting attorney general while in office to wield the Justice Department’s power to try to force state lawmakers in Georgia to overturn its presidential election results. But the impeachment managers have previously signaled that they intend to present a relatively straightforward case, with the siege that played out in public view at the heart of their case.

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